18 May 1999

Malawi: Turn-coat Gumboh denounces Zambian hospitality

Lusaka — As always the case, men of Malawian origin who once enjoyed Zambian hospitality on the Copperbelt or anywhere around the country tend to turn against the same.

They never truly renounce Malawian citizenship and return to Lilongwe and pour scorn on Zambia even after posing as Zambians for many years while here.

Winston Gumboh is a rare breed. He is in a class of his own.

After narrowly surviving a deportation bid waged by some of his enemies in Zambia, Gumboh has learnt to abide by the adage that you do not pass between the elephant's legs twice. He has finally come back home to roost. Unlike the majority of others who have come from outside the country blowing trumpets that government should give them some financial handouts or be considered in one way or another for monthly payroll, he has arrogantly refused to stoop so low.

He proudly says he is not a pauper to go down on his knees with a bowl begging from friends or the government. "I'm not used to begging from anyone. I shall not kneel before anyone for any penny," he said in an interview a few days after arrival from Zambia. He vowed that he was not registering for any financial assistance.

"I worked for my money in Zambia. If anybody thinks I'm going to beg from them, it's a big joke," he boasted.

Can you blame him for that especially if you had a chance to see his multi-million fortune in Zambia which he has transferred to this country? In Zambia, he used to own a chain of five-star gents' hair salons stretching from down Livingstone along the line of rail up to Copperbelt towns. Enter his office on the first floor of Development House in Lilongwe; an aura of affluence greets you.

The walls are all in ivory meshed wood and gold panels. There are curtains in sunset red and gold colours.

Gold plated trays, gold plated waste paper bins. In a nutshell, everything here hinges on glittering gold or something metallic.

When he was setting up his offices in the city centre of the capital Lilongwe, he brought from Zambia his own special doors, office furniture and a carpenter to fit them. He is a man of high class and tastes.

He thrives to like like a small time king. No qualms about that. He has what it takes for the world to go round. And that's money.

"I like class, you know," he mused in a recent interview. For sure, he has an insatiable appetite for class like nobody else. During the interview, he was casually dressed in a viscose multi-coloured shirt with the two top buttons open, revealing his hairy chest.

He was wearing a pure gold ring, gold necklace and gold wrist watch. He is one man who wants to stand out and be counted.

For instance, all his four Mercs have personalised number plates like P1, B1, NN 1 et cetera. "In Zambia, you know, I built my house next to the president's.

No one (ever) did that. "That is my life which I will lead even here," he revealed.

And on the table of his office there is a chain of telephones in addition to a cellular phone. "Naturally, I like good life and good things, but that have to come through hard work," he said, "I admire a Zambian businessman, Tom Mtine, who is based in the town of Ndola on the Copperbelt. His great tastes even extend to Havana cigars which bear his initials - TM." Gumboh, a non-smoker and teetotaller, revealed that Mtine has been his driving force in his life and a great source of inspiration.

He reports for work at 09.00hrs, does not break for lunch and knocks off between 15.00 and 16.00hrs. If you do not see him at any club or hotel, it is because he is a very reserved man.

After work he drives straight home. He says he does not want to associate with people with whom he has nothing in common.

"I will not belong to a gathering which is not beneficial to me. I'll only associate with people who are my friends," he said. He recalls friends in influential positions in UDF, MCP and AFORD like Dumbo Lemani, Chakufwa Chihana, Mayinga Mkandawire, Henry Moyo, Peter Khamisa, Mathias Mwenda, late Mac William Lunguzi, late Bob Ahule, JZU Tembo and Chenda Mkandawire.

Others are Zililo Chibambo, Mapopa Chipeta, Themba Chikulamayembe, Teddy Mkandawire, Harry Mkandawire to mention but a few. But he says his circle of friends and relations will not influence his choice of political party when time for that comes." I am above any form of intimidation," he says and emphasised that although he comes from Nthamu village, Chizoli, T.A Chikulamayembe, Rumphi district, he is first and foremost a Malawian Before returning to Malawi on Sunday 23rd August, 1998, he held the position of vice treasurer, until last year, in the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) in Zambia.

If home is where your heart is, why did he think of returning to Malawi after all the big money and big everything? Apart from the usual reason he has given in his Press releases that he has answered to the call by the state president that all Malawians living outside should come back to rebuild the country, and also that his parents-in-law have returned. Gumboh revealed that his success brought with it misery as well.

He said there was a witch hunt about his nationality by what he termed " a few disgruntled thugs ganged up against me." He says if it were not for the last minute personal intervention of President Frederick Chiluba, he would have been bundled out of Zambia in the same way that William Banda and the late John Chinula were deported two years ago. "I was locked up for one hour, ready for deportation," he recalled with rancour.

That catalysed his return. When he was issued with a Malawian passport on Tuesday on September 8, 1998, he surrendered the Zambian one and said: Thank you, Yebo, Zikomo, Natasha mukwai. Together with his wife Austina Nthakomwa he has set up FEM Trading with tentacles in various sectors of commerce and industry. Although this sportsman-like physique places him some where in the mid 40's, he is in his early 50s, has five children and three grandchildren. Story courtesy of The Nation.

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